Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Fatal peptic ulcer complications and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, and corticosteroids.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 14 November 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:1227
  1. D A Henry,
  2. A Johnston,
  3. A Dobson,
  4. J Duggan
  1. Discipline of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Newcastle, Royal Newcastle Hospital, Australia.


    Although non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are known to cause peptic ulcer and its complications, controversy exists about the number of deaths from ulcer which are attributable to their use. A case-control study was therefore performed to determine whether prior use of non-steroidal and other anti-inflammatory compounds was associated with an increased case fatality rate from complications of peptic ulcer. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were used by 39% of a series of 80 patients who had died from peptic ulcer complications and by 37% of 160 controls who were survivors matched for sex, age, ulcer site, and nature of complication (odds ratio 1.1; 95% confidence interval 0.6 to 2.1). Similarly, the rates of prior use of aspirin by cases and controls were almost identical (odds ratio 1.2; 95% confidence interval 0.5 to 1.9). Thus neither nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs nor aspirin were associated with increased case fatality rates from peptic ulcer complications. In contrast, corticosteroids were associated with an increased mortality (odds ratio 4.2; 95% confidence interval 0.9 to 25.6). Although this increase in the estimated relative risk was not statistically significant, a review of the case records indicated that most deaths in steroid users were due to serious sepsis, indicating that there might be a causal association between use of the drugs and the mode of death.